Letter to British Foreign Secretary
The Right Honourable William Hague MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
King Charles Street,
London SW1A 2AH
November 20th, 2012
Dear Mr Hague,
We write to express our astonishment at your statement of 15th November, when you said that Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis. It is difficult to square that with the recorded pattern of attacks or with the resulting deaths and injuries, and impossible to square it with the first-hand account of cease-fire negotiations.
The statistics provided by OCHA (the UN Office for the Protection of Civilians) is the most authoritative record of the intensification of the conflict. They show a pattern of mutual attacks during the year to the end of October 2012, with 73 Palestinians being killed while no Israelis were killed. Israeli forces also carried out incursions into Gaza together with destruction of crops and the targeting of fishermen within Gaza’s Oslo-recognised maritime exclusion zone.
Although Israel had been killing militants continually from early October, which often triggered retaliatory rocket attacks, from 4th November Israel began to kill civilians on land, killing an epilepsy sufferer who strayed too near their border and refusing to allow an ambulance to reach him for several hours. On 10th November an anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters wounded four Israeli soldiers on the Israel-Gaza boundary. Israeli forces then fired an artillery shell that landed in a soccer field, killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank fired a shell at a tent, where mourners had gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians and wounding more than two dozen others. This resulted in a barrage of rocket fire. It would seem that this was a pattern of mutual attacks, not of Hamas initiating the confrontation.
However, most important is the revelation of ceasefire negotiation by the Israeli negotiator, Gershon Baskin, firstly to Haaretz and then in an OpEd in the New York Times. On 12th November the militant factions confirmed their agreement to cease firing providing Israel stopped its military actions against them. The Palestinian in charge of the negotiations was none other than Ahmed Jabari, who had kept the militant factions in check for years and who had negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit with Gershon Baskin. Israel destroyed the nascent ceasefire by assassinating him, and then commenced its concentrated attacks. The Israeli government justified it by referring to his organizing of terrorist attacks “over 10 years”, thereby neatly ignoring the ceasefire negotiations. The only credible conclusion is that the Israeli government did not want a ceasefire. It is unfortunate that Israel feels its actions are covered by Western support. After all Netanyahu is on record as saying: ‘contrary to the childish scare-mongering in some of our media suggesting that Israel is now more isolated internationally, we have conducted this operation with firm Western backing’.
Underlying this confrontation, of course, is the clear evidence that this Israeli government has no intention of negotiating peace along the internationally accepted lines. Not only has it refused in principle to cease settlement expansion, but it has undertaken several specific actions that are clear markers of its intentions to keep large parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem., all of which are known to your staff in the FCO. The most directly relevant is its refusal to submit negotiating proposals to the Quartet a year ago. It continues to maintain its siege of Gaza which imprisons the population and prevents all economic development, creating a pressure cooker environment which is ideal for recruitment to the militant factions.
None of this has been lost on Hamas or the other Palestinian groups. It is not surprising that they resort to mounting attacks as part of resisting Israeli expansionism, and that leads to Israeli repression, which leads to the cycle of violence. The time has surely come to stop blaming Hamas and to place the responsibility squarely on Israeli expansionism where it belongs. Until Israel is held to account for its actions, it is hard to see how the cycle of violence will end.
For Jews for Justice for Palestinians
(the largest Jewish Peace and Justice group in Europe, with 1600* signatories.)
London W9 2ZF
[*1,707 at 18 November 2012]